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Jacinda Ardern defends slow Covid vaccine roll out as commentators say it's 'unacceptable'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended New Zealand’s slow roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine, insisting its not a level playing field between countries.

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New Zealand is second to last in the OECD for its vaccination rollout per capita, but Jacinda Ardern says it's still going according to plan. Source: Q+A

New Zealand is well below fellow OECD countries when it comes to our vaccination rates per capita.

That’s compared to the likes of Israel with 60.97 per cent, France at 13.58 per cent and Ireland with 12.90 per cent of people vaccinated on a per capita basis.

Ardern bit back at criticism, highlighting the importance of ensuring nations hit hardest by Covid-19 have access to the vaccine.

“We took a normal process for approval for the vaccine, and I strongly believe that was the right thing to do to give people the confidence in the vaccine we’re using,” she told Q+A’s Jack Tame.

“We absolutely accepted we wouldn’t be the first rolling out, because the equation in New Zealand is so different. Our people aren’t dying.”

She says because of the lower degree of urgency, some countries who sign vaccine agreements after New Zealand may in fact receive their supplies earlier.

“Everyone had been losing lives and we weren’t, so I think New Zealanders accept that. The important point is where we finish.”

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Q+A’s political panel all agreed they have doubts about the ability of the Ministry of Health to ramp up the vaccine rollout. Source: Q+A

The country is still on a “similar trajectory” to other countries says Ardern, with vaccination rates bound to ramp up as the nation’s roll out reaches the next phase.

NZME’s Head of Business Fran O’Sullivan told Q+Q’s political panel it’s “unacceptable” for the Prime Minister to allow the rollout to be placed on the back burner.

“This is her country that she has got to stick up for. She has got to deliver to her citizens reasonable expectations about when people might get vaccinated.”

In an effort to avoid another KiwiBuild moment, economics and politics writer Bernard Hickey says the Government is acting cautious to avoid hurting themselves when it comes to keeping promises.

“The ghost of KiwiBuild hangs heavy over this Government. They set a hard target and they failed to meet it.”

“The mere idea there is a bunch of those doses sitting these and they are still dribbling, and they are already slightly behind targets that have been set internally… that is a concern.”

A slow starting point could hinder the government in reaching high vaccination rates later on, if they fail to instil public confidence early on, he says.

Ardern says a lack of clear information from the pharmaceutical firms behind vaccine distribution is what has resulted in the Government’s hazy timeline for how future phases of the process will go.

“We are relying on general data from pharmaceutical companies around what they believe they will be able to deliver to us,” she told Q+A.

“And that, in some cases, is why we haven't always been able to give the level of specification that you've been looking for.”